Saturday, January 23, 2021
HALLANDALE BEACH - The 2021 racing season started today the same way last year's ended for Knicks Go at Gulfstream Park, as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile unleashed another display of sheer brilliance and class to capture the $3 million, Gr. I Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
The Pegasus, a 1 1/8-mile event for 4-year-olds and up, and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational co-headlined a 12 -race program that included five other graded stakes.
Brad Cox-trained Knicks Go, who set a Keeneland track record with a front-running performance in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, showed his heels to 11 rivals while capturing the 5th running of the Pegasus by 2 ¾ lengths.
“He is one of the top handicap horses in the country now," Cox said. "This is what you get up for every day, seven days a week, long days for moments like this. I’m very proud of the horse and my team and thank the Korea Racing Authority for the opportunity with this horse.”
Knicks Go broke alertly and rounded the first turn on top, then continued to show the way along the backstretch while pressed briefly by Last Judgment and stalked by Tax. After setting fractions of :22.90 and :46.16 seconds for the first half mile, Knicks Go maintained complete control under a motionless Joel Rosario on the far turn and into the stretch. Under mild encouragement from Rosario, the 5-year-old son of Paynter unleashed a powerful kick at the top of the stretch and drew clear under wraps.
“He’s a very special horse - he just goes faster and faster,” Rosario said. “He was really enjoying what he was doing out there, so I was never worried about somebody getting close to me.”
Knicks Go earned $1,740,000 for the victory as he raised his record to 6-3-1 in 18 starts and his career bank account to $3,088,995. He was purchased by owner Korea Racing Authority for $87,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale in 2016. His final time of 1:47.89 is just one second off the track record of 1:46.83 set by Arrogate in this race in 2017.
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Jesus’ Team, who finished second behind Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, settled behind the pace in fifth along the backstretch before making a wide move into the stretch and closing steadily to finish second under Irad Ortiz Jr. Independence Hall saved ground in fourth before making a bid in the stretch, falling just a neck short of holding off Jesus’s Team.
Knicks Go was timed in 1:47.89 while carrying his brilliant speed over 1 1/8 miles. He wasa Gr. 1 winner at 2, but was winless in eight starts in 2019 beforebeing transferred to Cox for the 2020 season. The Maryland-bred speedster won all three starts last year by a combined 21 ½ lengths, all in front-running fashion.
“It’s a very prestigious race," Cox said. "I know it hasn’t been around that long, but when you look at past winners, it’s a very prestigious list of horses that have won it – world champions, actually, with Gun Runner and Arrogate. They weren’t just national horses. They competed and won on the world stage, so it’s a big race.”